Killed by the Cars

blog BERGER Emma

On January 27, 1890, Emma (nee Berger) Toomey, aged 26, died after being run over by a train. Almost two years later, on December 23, 1891, her husband, Michael Toomey, was also “killed by the cars.”  It’s believed they were struck because they couldn’t hear the train coming, as both  Emma and Michael lost their hearing as the result of childhood illnesses.

Continue reading

The Stitching Girl

Annie Hicks Townsend

I picked up this beautiful tintype on etsy.  Written on the back of the pink paper sleeve that houses the image is “Annie Townsend, Mother of Nelle, Henry, Roy.”

Annie Townsend

Having no information about the photographer or location, I looked closely at the sitter’s clothing and hairstyle, and with the help of the 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide, dated the image to around 1872.  The sitter appears to be in her early twenties, so I searched for an Annie Townsend, born about 1850, with children named Nelle, Henry and Roy.  I found Annie Hicks, and she fit the bill!

Annie, born in Nova Scotia, immigrated to the US about 1870 and began working in a shoe factory in Danvers, Massachusetts.  As many young women working in the shoe factories in Essex county, Annie came to town seeking work, and was boarding in a private family’s home.   Also living in Danvers and working in the shoe factory was Francis Henry Townsend.

Prior to 1860, stitching machines in the shoe factories required great strength to operate.  Upon the introduction of steam power, these machines could easily be run by women, and since women required a lower wage, the majority of stitchers were female.

Another shoe factory town in Essex county, just 10 miles from Danvers, was Lynn.  In 1872, a serialized novel, “The Queen City! : or Life in the Shoe Factories of Lynn,” was published in the Lynn Record.   It described the young workers who flocked to the streets on Saturday nights, where, away from the prying eyes of family, they flirted, drank beer and ran wild.

A poem, “The Stitching Girls,” published in the Lynn Transcript in 1869, captured the scene through the eyes and mind of an observer.

When walking on the crowded street,
A lovely lass attracts your eye,
And while you gaze your glances meet,
You smile – alas! you soon will sigh
For Cupid from her beaming eyes,
His shining arrows thickly hurls;
And hard indeed must be the heart –
The pleasing, teasing stitching girls.

…Again you meet her and she plys
And sings and smiles for you alone,
Charmed by her gentle, loving ways,
You hope to call her all your own,
But should you kneel and tell your love,
With cruel scorn her lip will curl:

And you’ll be left alone to sigh:
I’m jilted by a stitching girl.
The stitching girls, the witching girls –
The singing, clinging stitching girls
They break your heart and then depart
The naughty, haughty stitching girls.

Unlike the poem’s author, who it seems was cast aside by a stitching girl, Francis Townsend found love with one.  He and Annie married in 1877 and went on to raise Nelle, Henry and Roy.

Sources:
Census records
Massachusetts marriage records
Massachusetts death records
19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark
Men, Women and Work: Class, Gender and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780 – 1910, by Mary H. Blewett, published 1990
Women in Industry Vol. 5, published 1916

 

 

 

Unrelenting Death

Lizzie and Emma Boeckling

This cabinet card was found in a Goshen, Indiana shop and features Lizzie and Emma Boeckling during happier times; I uncovered a sad tale during my research.

Lizzie and Emma were two of six children born to John and Johanna Boeckling  of LaPorte, Indiana.  They were the middle children, with the eldest being Carrie and Albert, and Frank and Hattie, the babies of the family.  Tuberculosis, also known as consumption, took five of them to the grave.  And strangely, Carrie, Albert and Lizzie, the first three to succumb to the disease, each died when they were 30 years old.

Continue reading

Mattie’s Snap Shot

blog HOLMES Mattie

Martha “Mattie” Kennedy (nee Luney) Holmes was born in Ireland in 1874 and came with her family to the United States as a young girl.  In 1894, she married Dr. William Wesley Holmes, who was 30 years her senior.  After William’s death in 1913, Mattie worked as a traveling and home nurse.

I’m not sure when Mattie died.  She was living with her sister, Edith Cole, in Yonkers, New York in 1930.  The last trace I found of her was in 1936 when she was still in Yonkers, but living on her own at 472 Hawthorne.

Sources:
Census records
The Denison Review, Denison, Iowa, February 12, 1913, – William Holmes’ obituary
Yonkers, New York City Directory 1931 and 1936

 

Alive and Well

Lora Peirce Cooper in box

Most of the time, when someone is selling or sharing photos of an antique photo brooch, it’s described as mourning jewelry.  This find is proof that not all of these pieces were mourning objects.  The sitter for the photograph encased in this Victorian pin was Lora (nee Peirce) Cooper.  Writing on the inside of the box dates the photo to 1875, when Lora was 26 years old. 1875 is also the year she was married to Morris Cooper.

Small BLog PEIRCE Lora top of box

The good news is that Lora was alive and well long after this photo was taken and after this beautiful piece of jewelry was created.  She died, aged 77, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she lived her entire life.

A couple interesting family tidbits:  Her parents were Quakers, also known as The Religious Society of Friends.  Lora’s maternal grandfather, Asa Walton, also a Quaker, was a founding member of the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society, and he, along with his wife, Mary Taylor, were conductors of the Underground Railroad.  In 1838, the couple aided runaway slave, James Williams, who fled from Maryland.  According to a family member on ancestry who had contact with the current owner of the Walton farm, a small hidden room behind a wall in the barn was discovered during remodeling.  The room was well disguised and only accessible via a small trap door.

Sources:
Census records
Find A Grave
History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, by R.C. Smedley, 1883
The Underground Railroad: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Operations, by Mary Ellen Snodgrass
Life and Adventures of James Williams, a Fugitive Slave, 1873

Love and Sympathy

Funeral Flowers

Throughout history, flowers have been used at funerals and memorial services as visual expressions of love, sympathy, and respect.  This cabinet card is so beautiful that the lack of identifying writing didn’t stop me from adding it to my collection.  I also didn’t let it stop me from attempting to figure out who these flowers mourned.

I began the hunt by researching the photographer, Crosby.  According to the Directory of Early Michigan Photographers, Crosby operated a studio in Otsego, Michigan for a short time, about 1895.  I looked for Jims and James who died around that time in the Otsego area, and came up with six possibilities:

James Henderson died July 17, 1894
James Hopkins died April 7, 1895
James Rogers died April 25, 1895
W. James Monteith died July 29, 1896
James Hunt died July 29, 1896
James Duncan died June 9, 1897

I studied the photo for more clues.  Among the flowers, other than the name, there is an arrangement that reads BROTHER.  I find this significant.  It led me to believe that Jim was a single boy or man, or at the least, that he did not have children.  Why?  If Jim had been a married man with children, I would expect to see a floral Father arrangement.  If my theory is correct, this leaves only James Rogers, as all the other men were fathers.  I am in no way asserting my deduction as fact.  But, I feel it’s a pretty good bet.

James Rogers died of consumption at the age of 23.  He was single, and according to death records, he was the manager of a newspaper.  I hoped to learn more about him from an obituary, but upon contacting the Otsego Library, I learned that they have no newspaper records available from 1895.

Sources:

Census records
Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder, published 2013
Find A Grave
Michigan Death records